A remote-controlled submarine operated by Lanham-based East Port International has located and photographed one of the two space shuttle booster rockets that sank 100 miles off the Florida coast after the June 27 launch.
The tiny submarine, named Scarab 2, began searching for the two $24 million boosters two weeks ago. It carries no crew and is operated from a surface ship.
Roy Ewing, manager for technical services at East Port, declined to disclose when the submarine first located the booster rocket. But he confirmed that film and videotape of the 150-foot-long, 80-ton booster have been sent to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., for review by scientists.
"We've shot a lot of hours of film and of videotape," Ewing said. Several cameras are mounted on the submarine's all-aluminum housing, in addition to two claw-like contraptions that can grasp and manipulate objects on the ocean floor.
Ewing said the submarine is now looking for the second booster.
A NASA investigations board at Marshall will examine the rocket booster pictures to determine what, if any, action to take next, NASA representative Lyn Cywanowicz said.
Scarab, originally designed to repair underwater telephone cables, is not big enough to tow the boosters to the surface itself. It may be used, however, in attempts to attach a cable to the rockets if NASA decides to raise them.
Flight recorder units--so-called "black boxes"--are located in the forward assembly of each booster rocket and have taped information about the booster's flight and trajectory. If the two rockets are not brought to the surface, Scarab may still be used to retrieve the recorders.
Cywanowicz said that nothing else has been done with the boosters so far and that nothing has been brought to the surface.
East Port's Ewing said the search-and-survey project NASA contracted the firm to undertake has been running a little behind schedule because of minor delays.
Some repairs have been made on Scarab because of problems with debris it encountered in the 3,500 feet of water where the boosters sank, he said.